By David Muir, Christine Romo, and Xorje Olivares, ABC News
July 8, 2010
Six months after a devastating earthquake struck the heart of Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere still is struggling to recover and rebuild.
The earthquake on Jan. 12 ravaged the region and left hundreds of thousands dead, and the problems in the country still are widespread with little hope for major progress anytime soon.
Rubble chokes the streets of Port-au-Prince, and on our trip through the capital we discovered only one bulldozer can be seen working in the Haitian capital.
By some estimates, up to 25 million cubic yards of debris remains uncleared, enough to fill 5 Louisiana Superdomes. That figure doesn’t begin to include the teetering homes, whose instability has forced residents to move to some 1,300 tent cities that dot the country.
Donated Funds Going Unused
The lack of progress is not for lack of funding. Between 23 major charities, $1.1 billion has been collected for Haiti for relief efforts. But only 2 percent of the funds donated to the impoverished nation have been released, and only 1 percent has been used on operations.
So far, $96.5 million has been spent on housing alone. Yet new shelters have been built for just 10,000 of the 1.3 million homeless since January.
Women Fear Rape at Night
Once night falls, a second disaster comes to light. Sporadic electricity and its resulting darkness have led to numerous attacks on women.
Tent city residents who have to use the bathroom must cross the street and head over to the restrooms sitting in darkness, making them easy targets for sexual assaults.
Authorities said the number of attacks have tripled since last year, with a sense of fear growing along with it.
“Oui J’ai peur, very scared,” said one woman.
During a special gathering at a safe haven for women, all those in attendance said they had been attacked.
With No Police to Patrol, 5-Year-Old Girl Falls Victim
A grandmother brought her five year old granddaughter, Milfore, 5 years old, one of the youngest victims. The half-dozen prescription medications she now has to take sit on a counter that is taller than the young girl.
Although Milfore’s grandmother said she still smiles, “mostly she is sad.”
When ABC News went to the main police station at night, our cameras found just a handful of officers, one holding a beer who asked us to come back another time.
With such little support from the police, a small women’s group, KOFAVIV, is helping victims by providing them with a simple tool — a whistle.
Though womens’ advocates say it should hardly be a substitute for police and safer housing.
Sign of Hope on Faces of the Young
Still, in Port-au-Prince, the first sign of hope can be seen on the faces of young children as they walk over rubble to return to class.
“The children are now very happy after months out of school,” said a nun.
The students have attended classes through the summer to help make up for lost time. ABC News watched as the youngest citizens of the devastated country gathered behind a green school gate, dancing around with big grins on their faces.
The children’s smiles may be the first to recover, but Haiti is still a country grimacing from the pain of disaster.
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